Cyclingweekly.co.uk has been sent a copy of a damning condemnation of the UCI, and its brainchild the ProTour, by the four largest governing bodies in the sport who accuse the UCI of trying to ?impose its formula come hell or high water?.
Dated July 31 2008 and signed by the heads of the Belgian, Spanish, Italian, French, Luxembourgois, and Austrian federations to the UCI Management Committee, it is a nine-page diatribe of the sport?s governing body.
The UCI ProTour officially died a death during the Tour de France when a collective decision was made by 17 of the 18 teams to withdraw from the system. In its place, the UCI is planning instead to introduce a World Calendar system, with a more democratic decision making process in place.
The letter begins with an assurance that the ?no one wishes to create a parallel federation,? which is exactly what the UCI claimed ASO and the French Cycling Federation were doing, when withdrawing Paris-Nice and the Tour de France outside of the UCI?s jurisdiction.
The first criticisms levelled at the UCI are that it ploughed ahead with its ProTour system without ?veritable debate? and the ?fully transparent decisions? necessary behind any major reforms in sport. The letter certainly does not waste any words in pointing the finger: ?failure is patently obvious. This failure is down to the authority, that is to say the UCI and no one else?.
At this point, it would be pertinent to point out that the failure of the ProTour cannot be solely laid at the door of the UCI; ASO?s decision to place Paris-Nice under the control of the French Federation (and its intransigent refusal to engage in meaningful, constructive debate) is a point recognised by the authors.
One of the main criticisms of the UCI was that in creating the ProTour, it was creating a ?closed league,? in which only a few members of the UCI were involved in planning, eschewing the involvement of the UCI Steering Committee, national federations and continental confederations.
The authors do admit that on several occasions the UCI was willing to modify the system in cooperation with the stakeholders of the sport, albeit ?without a solution acceptable to everyone being found?. The critique claims that the elite calendar was ?very overloaded,? which it was before 2008, with teams often having to be in more than one place at the same time.
?A significant gap? also existed between ?major and less important? races in the ProTour it claims, although television coverage (or lack of) is held responsible for this. Regardless of whether races like the Tour of Poland or the ENECO Tour ever have extensive television coverage, they will never be the Tour de France; responsibility in this respect must be laid with the UCI for placing them in the same classification, not the television companies.
So, what do the governing bodies propose as a solution to the current crisis?
?The UCI must agree to sit down at the table to work on the setup of a new system of organisation for professional cycling. All the associations representing organisers and teams must have a place free at this table. These federations want the new organisation to be constructed in a sprit of consensus so that it can quickly acquire a democratic, efficient, system of governance, accepted by the parties. This needs to be implemented very soon because a start on preparations for the 2009 season is becoming extremely urgent.
‘The work basis might be the ?agreement for a new departure for professional road cycle racing? as it already exists or a simplified formula that could be prepared by a mixed organiser/team task force. A study must also be undertaken on the distribution of revenue in cycling, over and above the simple framework of professional cycling.
?It would be suicidal for the UCI not to seize this opportunity. It would in that case open the door to the setup of a new international organism which would then be the only solution to enable the world of professional cycling to achieve a renewed climate of serenity and work in a rational manner?.
The UCI certainly does need to engage in meaningful dialogue with all of the sport?s major stakeholders and quickly because the 2009 season is fast approaching. It is unlikely that a solution suitable for everyone will ever be found, due to the different interests involved, but all we can hope for is a more democratic, representative system and quickly.
Watch this space for further developments?